Name: Tangerine Dream
Members: Thorsten Quaeschning, Hoshiko Yamane, Paul Frick
Interviewee: Thorsten Quaeschning
Occupation: Producer, multi-Instrumentalist
Current Release: The new Tangerine Dream album Raum is available via Eastgate.
If you enjoyed this interview with Tangerine Dream, visit their official website. They are also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
We highly recommend reading our earlier Tangerine Dream interview, as well as conversations with former members:
[Read our Steve Jolliffe interview]
[Read our Paul Haslinger interview]
You've all been active as solo artists and in various group constellations. How would you describe your transition towards working in Tangerine Dream and what sets working in this group apart from your previous collaborations?
Every situation of people involved leads to different approaches, paths and procedures and we are not in the position to judge single collaborations. In a best case scenario, the people involved fulfil their specific role inside their musical orchestra like environment.
Probably a collaboration where all involved don't have too much in common is better because you do not need the same person twice. Sometimes it is fine to have the same idols and heroes. But on another level, combining views and genres opens up other perspectives. Luckily, within Tangerine Dream, the three of us have different points of departure but a shared view about the final result.
Which is a good thing, because when it comes to the decision making process, you probably need to feel like your ideas are being heard inside the collective to stay motivated.
While he was still with us, it seems, Edgar Froese was just the kind of person to support his balance.
Edgar was a very protective person. But he was definitely also open for views of the people he respected.
How does your interaction within the group work?
One of the main ideas in Tangerine Dream is that every musician has their own role inside our music. Sometimes very prominent, sometimes only recognizable when it is absent.
I really like collaborations because two people have more to say musically than just one. It’s great to share working processes, views, tricks and hacks with colleagues. The best way of working together is the unbeatable situation of being in the same room with instruments and software you are familiar with. Or, actually, an even better scenario would include living in the same house for several months. You have all these “little magical things” and conversations happening at unexpected times that may trigger something useful for the music.
Maybe an idea for the future.
We are actually spending much time together. So, in a live situation, we'll hopefully know what the others are doing.
That said, on stage we have a microphone system where we are able to communicate when it is needed.
The 70s and 80s line-up of Tangerine Dream had very different approaches to improvisation, with the latter working with backing tapes a lot. In the 90s, they played almost like a band like Depeche Mode, with a blend of prepared sequences and live elements. Since you seem to be working with all of these approaches: What do you draw from them?
In our world, the word improvisation does not work 100 % because we have fixed rules, scales and concepts without just using your muscle memory of things you learned.
During our concerts, the first part consists of playing existing material, sometimes with a little freedom. But the second part is totally new music composed in the moment of the concert. So a term like real time composition would probably fit better.
The way I understand it, you have access to many of Edgar Froese's recordings. So there is, in a way, another collaborator you're working with. How does this pan out in practise?
The main difference between Quantum Gate and our new album Raum is that modern software like Melodyne is able to re-pitch polyphonic audio material and adapt melodies, arpeggiators end even pad-like textures to our compositions and arrangements.
Through this procedure, we were able to use and adjust Edgar’s musical parts to our existing music on three tracks on the new album. And this despite the fact that they were in a different key and tempo.
For the new album Raum, were there concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you in general?
Working on new music and the new album always includes speculative elements. Music is created in the present trying to avoid clichés and musical trends by finding the right balance between contemporary sounds and timeless approaches towards music.
But there was no preparation phase for Raum. This time, the idea was to spend a lot of time together finding music that leads to the concept of the new album.
The album material is particularly spacious and expansive. Especially so on the aptly titled title track, which may well be my favourite piece of the current line-up. Once you've started, how do pieces like these gradually emerge?
Thank for saying so. In every production phase there is a moment when the music itself starts to determine the way it should be treated. Then the role of the musician and the composer should be as a servant and subordinated to the music. The music cannot always be controlled, sometimes the goal is to channel it.
We sometimes record a lot and even much more than what will end up on the album. After a while we'll start to work in a more detailed manner on the ideas that we liked, giving more structure and sonic richness to the initial sparks.
When the new Tangerine Dream studio was ready and set up, that was a turning point and allowed us to access way more instruments and musical colours, and things fell together naturally without us having to talk about it too much.
Tell me a bit, about the instruments and tools that surrounded you during the Raum recordings, please. In which way do they support creative exchange with others?
At the end of the day, the source of sounds does not matter. However, with Tangerine Dream, we are better at using hardware and haptic instruments. In our world, no restrictions exist so we are using a combination of analog, modular, granular, hybrid and software effects.
We were using the Marienberg Modular, various Moog Synths (Voyager, MiniMoog, etc.), Waldorf Microwave and Quantum, Novation Peek, Roland Jupiter 8, Solina String Ensemble, and ARP Odyssey, often combined with Strymon effects to name just a few.
In the studio we have good keyboards with 88 weighted keys, motorized faders, software controllers such as the soft tube console 1. A good mixing desk and specific DAW controllers like Push 2.
[Read our feature about the Waldorf Microwave series]
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
The software that possibly changed a lot in my workflow for post-production is Melodyne. It also turns me into a solid guitar player in studio situations.
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do you go about selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
The wealth of options equals probably knowing and using your equipment for years and sometimes decades. Sadly surprises are not daily business anymore.
But after moving to our current studio in 2021, we changed the order of connections and replaced instruments, gaining the opportunity of getting new views and aspects to use your gear in a different way.
What types of sound do you personally prefer to work with in the context of Tangerine Dream? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?
There are no restrictions per se but there are probably, at least for us, obvious rules which sounds should be included in our music. Or the kinds of sounds which should - like saxophone. (laughs)
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Luckily we are touring a lot after the release of the album from March till the end of the year so emptiness and depression will hit us earliest in 2023.